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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When most people hear the term “estate planning” the first thing they think of is a Will. Perhaps this is because of movies and television shows where they have seen a will being vitally important after a person passes away. However, Estate Planning includes so much more than just creating a Last Will and Testament. Here are the three most important things that you should know about how Idaho estate planning can help you:

1. A Last Will and Testament Becomes Effective Only After You Die

While a last will and testament is important it only becomes effective after you die. What this means is anything that you have in your last will and testament can be altered or changed by you at any time that you would like while you are alive. Nothing that is in your last will and testament is binding on you or on any of your family members until you pass away.

Also, a last will and testament is usually used only for the purpose of disposing of your property and assets. Typically, the only thing that you can do in a last will and testament is to describe the individual or individuals that you want to receive all or a part of your money and assets. To boil it down to its simplest form, a last will and testament is a document used by you to give gifts to other people after you die.

2. A Power of Attorney Can Protect You and Save You Money While You are Alive

Two other vital documents that a person should have in their basic estate planning are a durable power of attorney, and a power of attorney for health care. A durable power of attorney is a document that is used by you to name another individual who will have the legal authority to make decisions for you about your finances and property if you suddenly become unable to yourself. The classic example is Alzheimer’s disease.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease and their mind no longer functions properly then another person must have the legal authority to make decisions for them. If there is no durable power of attorney in the estate planning documents, the family will be required to do a guardianship hearing. This can be costly, and can also open the door for the family to disagree and to fight about who should be appointed. All of this can be eliminated if a person has a proper durable power of attorney.

Likewise, a power of attorney for Health Care is a document where you give the legal authority to another person to make medical and Healthcare decisions for you. These would include the doctors that you see, the medical procedures that you receive, and or the medicines that you take. Again, if you do not have a power of attorney for Health Care, a guardianship will be required.

3. A Living Will Gives You Power Concerning Medical Decisions

A living will, sometimes known as a health care directive, is a document where you get to make decisions about the care you receive towards the end of your life. The decisions that you make include whether you want to be kept alive artificially or if you want to give directions that you should be allowed to pass away naturally. Without a living will the decision about your end of life healthcare will fall on the shoulders of your family. Again this place is a burden on the shoulders of your family. Also, it opens the door for your family to disagree about what should happen. You can eliminate all of this by having a valid living will prepared and a copy of it provided to your doctors and healthcare providers.

Enlist the Help of an Estate Planning Attorney

A basic estate plan consists of more than just a last will and testament. If you have any questions about completing your own estate plan or an estate plan for a family member of friend, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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